UK Foreign Minister visits Pacific
The UK Foreign Secretary, Hon James Cleverly, visited the Pacific islands region recently. He met with counterparts in both Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. He was expected to also visit Samoa, but this was cancelled as the Secretary was urgently recalled to London owing to a crisis developing in Sudan.
During the visit, PNG and the UK signed a security agreement. Its purpose is to modernise a longstanding status of forces agreement. It will allow for increased contributions by the UK military, including by way of training.
The visit is the latest indication of a reawakened interest on the part of the UK in the Pacific. As with other partners, much of this interest is driven by concern about the rising influence of China in the region.
HMS Spey visited Vanuatu where she assisted the government in transporting relief supplies to Tanna as part of the response to Tropical Cyclones Judy and Kevin.
Fiji government convenes economic summit
The government of Fiji has convened a wide-ranging economic summit. The consultation exercise was led by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Hon. Biman Prasad. It is the first event of its kind to be held in Fiji.
The participants considered a wide range of challenges that the economy of Fiji faces, including the need for an energy policy, the insufficiency of the minimum wage, and concerns of employers about the work-readiness of school leavers and University graduates.
A total of fourteen recommendations came out of the summit and have been referred to the government for consideration.
The summit comes at a time when the cost of living crisis is affecting many in Fiji. A report from the World Bank has highlighted some of the huge economic challenges the country faces. Some of the recommendations made by the World Bank have been criticised within Fiji.
Other Pacific News:
Tensions are high in West Papua. The Indonesian military has escalated its attempts to locate and free Phillip Mehrtens. This was met with an ambush by the West Papua National Liberation Army in which several Indonesian troops were killed.
Whilst visiting New Caledonia, Senator Penny Wong became the first Australian Foreign Minister to address the Congress. She went on to Tuvalu. She has now visited all the Pacific Islands Forum members within a year of taking office.
In the USA, bills are being submitted to Congress with the Pacific being in focus on occasion. One such bill seeks to enshrine the role of Special Envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum, which was created recently by the Biden administration.
The issue of deep seabed mining (DSM) continues to be contentious. Recent reporting by SBS News and Al Jazeera highlights the divergent views on this issue within the Pacific islands region.
In Cook Islands, homosexuality has been decriminalised. This was welcomed by LGBTQI+ activists in that country and across the region. However, within the parliament of Cook Islands, there was opposition to the move, largely based on religious grounds.